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Anti-Semitism in Soviet Union Increases, Prompting Jewish Exodus

February 25, 1990

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Increasingly open acts of anti-Semitism have scared thousands of Soviet Jews out of their homeland, where they fear becoming targets of ethnic violence.

Many immigrants arriving in Israel speak of their fears, even though most say they have not witnessed anti-Semitic acts or been personally threatened.

But they have read widely circulated anti-Semitic magazines and have seen reports in newspapers or on television referring to plans for pogroms by anti- Jewish groups.

″Once, we laughed at the rumors that there may be a pogrom,″ said Elena Kopelevitch, a 30-year-old pianist from Odessa who arrived in Israel two weeks ago. ″But now, there’s an anti-Jewish hysteria, and it’s like a snowball.″

Israeli officials expect as many as 750,000 Jews to eventually leave the Soviet Union because of more liberal exit policies.

While Jews also are leaving to seek economic opportunity or because they doubt the new freedom in the Soviet Union will last, racism is another factor.

Immigrants noted attacks on Armenians in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku in January and in Uzbekistan’s Fergana valley, where Uzbeks last June killed more than 100 Meshkhetian Turks.

In such cases, authorities failed to protect the minorities, the Soviet Jews say. There is widespread fear the Jewish minority would not be protected in case of trouble, they say.

″We have not witnessed any direct anti-Semitism but we lived in fear,″ said Elena Kopelevitch’s brother Danny, a student.

At the house of friends, a mixed Armenian-Jewish family, Ms. Kopelevitch said he met an Armenian refugee from Baku, an 85-year-old woman who ″looked terrible ... she was covered with blue marks and bruises from beatings.″

″I’m still trembling as I recall it. We did not want to wait for the same fate,″ she said.

Anti-Semitism is not a new experience for Soviet Jews. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Josef Stalin ordered leading Soviet Jewish writers and actors killed and initiated anti-Semitic trials.

An anti-Zionist campaign, with clear anti-Semitic overtones, also followed the Soviet Union’s break in diplomatic ties with Israel after the 1967 Middle East war.

Much of the government-sponsored anti-Semitism has disappeared in the five years of President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s reforms, but liberalized rules also have unleashed grassroots anti-Semitism.

Vladimir Nosenko of Moscow’s Insitute of World Economy and International Relations, visiting Israel, pointed to unofficial anti-Semitism as a cause for Jewish fears.

″Imagine a country where emerging movements and parties accuse the Jews of causing all the trials and tribulations of the natives, and call for the extermination of ‘Jewish dominance’ for the sake of a better future,″ he wrote in the Jerusalem Post.

Nosenko said that several periodicals ″specialize in publishing material which plays on anti-Jewish emotion.″

Much of the open anti-Semitism is spearheaded by factions of National- Patriot ic Pamyat Front.

A Pamyat manifesto reported by the newpaper ″Soviet Circus″ in October said Stalin’s repressions in the 1930s were ″Zionist genocide (that) killed more people in our country than in all the wars of mankind.″

Last week the weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta said Moscow prosecutors have begun criminal proceedings against Pamyat on charges of ″inciting national and racial hatred and strife.″

″It is very frightening to be a Jew in the Soviet Union these days,″ said Kira Nefyodova, a chemist from Leningrad.

Soviet Jews were particularly worried by a Jan. 18 attack on April, a liberal group of Soviet writers. About 50 Pamyat activists holding signs saying ″Moscow is not Tel Aviv″ broke into an April meeting.

According to a tape transcript printed by the liberal Ogonyok weekly, a Pamyat member who identified himself as Smirnov shouted at the writers through a megaphone:

″Yids and Masons, get out of the hall ... comrade Jews, leave the hall ... your time has ran out, and neither police, nor KGB or the party will help you. Now we shall rule the country and you, aliens, get out to Israel.″

Participants in the April meeting later complained that police took no action.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, who visited Moscow last month, has said that in his six visits he had never seen Jews ″living and dwelling in such fear.″

Wiesel called on Gorbachev to personally condemn the growing anti-Semitism, but no government condemnation followed. In private meetings, Soviet leaders assured some Western guests they would not tolerate any pogroms.

Maya Kaganskaya, a Soviet-born author and researcher on anti-Semitism affiliated with Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, said Soviet authorities cannot openly condemn anti-Semitic forces that seem to enjoy mass support.

″These people are supported by hundreds of thousands ... while there is no social base for the so-called liberals,″ she said in an interview.

″Therefore the authorities want to the remove explosive material, the Jews, by encouraging them to leave,″ she said. They don’t want Russia covered with Jewish blood.″

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